Giants defensive coordinator Spagnuolo excited for 2016
EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. (AP) The first day of the NFL free agent signing period marked a different kind of holiday for Giants defensive coordinator Steve Spagnuolo.
''That was nice. It was like Christmas,'' Spagnuolo said Friday, when first-year coach Ben McAdoo's staff met with the media. ''(General manager) Jerry Reese and his staff did a great job of identifying the guys, then being real aggressive and getting what we think are some good football players. It's exciting.''
Spagnuolo had good reason to look upon Reese's March 9 haul of impact veterans as a potential remedy for the league's worst pass defense. Reese spent more than $204 million in just a few hours to lure Dolphins defensive end Olivier Vernon, Rams cornerback Janoris Jenkins, Jets defensive tackle Damon ''Snacks'' Richardson, and Redskins linebacker Keenan Robinson.
Add to that list the Giants' own pass-rushing star Jason Pierre-Paul, who agreed to terms on a one-year deal the previous day.
Vernon, Jenkins, and Richardson were regarded as the free agent class' top pass rusher, cover cornerback, and run stopper.
But Spagnuolo was especially excited by the potential pressure on quarterbacks the front trio will exert to rejuvenate a pass rush that finished with a league-low 23 sacks in 2015.
''What we did with the front helps everybody,'' Spagnuolo said. ''That's not going to be different from any defense in the NFL. Pressure on the quarterback is what it's all about in this league. It makes everybody a better player - linebackers, secondary players.''
The lack of consistent, late-game pressure became a major reason for the Giants' five fourth-quarter collapses. But Spagnuolo was hopeful that fresh ideas from new assistants such as line coach Patrick Graham, line assistant Jeff Zgonina, linebackers coach Bill McGovern, and cornerbacks coach Tim Walton could meld with the new veterans to spark marked improvement.
''When you bring in new ideas and new opinions, it's twofold,'' Spagnuolo said. ''You can gather new ideas about what other people have been doing, and I think we've got some great guys here. And it's always good when someone comes in and says, 'Why are you calling it that?' or 'Why are you doing this?' So that's been really good. The give and take and the interaction has been great.''
Graham, who previously coached Bill Belichick's defensive line in New England, saw a lot of potential in his new situation.
''I'm at home trying to coach my wife up, and she's not taking too kindly to that,'' Graham said. ''I'm excited to be working with all the guys in that room. I can't wait until coach breaks from the squad meeting and I get to go in there with `Z' and we get to talk to the guys as a group.''
Spagnuolo and Graham do have one reclamation project: The Giants are relying on Pierre-Paul to look more like the double-digit sacker of 2011 and 2014 than the one-sack disappointment that followed a July 4 fireworks accident that blew off his right index finger.
Pierre-Paul underwent offseason surgery to restore the mangled hand's gripping ability. He does not expect to wear the club-like wrapping that limited his tackling last season.
''Common sense says the production we get out of JPP is going to be better than what he had last year,'' Spagnuolo said. ''He's going to be more comfortable with what he's doing. I'm really excited about where it can go from here.
''I wasn't here for JPP's early years. But watching him from afar, we're hopeful that that's the kind of guy we're going to get now.''
Spagnuolo, Rams coach from 2009-2011, said he still has the ambitions to run his own show. He admitted he was disappointed when he lost out to McAdoo for the job vacated by 12-year head coach Tom Coughlin, who resigned.
''It didn't happen, so there's disappointment,'' Spagnuolo said. ''But I'm looking forward to moving forward. It's the game. It's the business. I'm not giving up on my dream about being head coach again, but I certainly am excited about moving forward.''
He'll do it with a box full of early Christmas presents.
AP NFL website: www.pro32.ap.org and www.twitter.com/AP-NFL